Nav: Home

Clean water-treatment option targets sporadic outbreaks

October 05, 2016

A University of Cincinnati scientist has engineered an environmentally friendly technology to zap outbreak-causing viruses and bacteria from public drinking water.

Environmental and biomedical engineer David Wendell, an associate professor in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, developed a protein-based photocatalyst that uses light to generate hydrogen peroxide to eliminate E. coli, Listeria, and potentially protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium.

If mass produced, he predicts this protein (called StrepMiniSog) could be used to safely "spike" the public water supply in the event of an outbreak.

"We designed this protein to attach to pathogens of interest using antibodies, so that when the attached photocatalyst is exposed to light it generates hydrogen peroxide and kills the pathogen," said Wendell.

Importantly, Wendell points out that this technology neutralizes viruses and bacteria in water without adding troublesome contaminants -- such as antibiotics or disinfection by-products -- to the environment.

"In the environment or engineered water treatment systems there are many bacteria that you want to preserve," he said. "We need a disinfectant that can ignore helpful bacteria while neutralizing pathogens responsible for sporadic outbreaks. It is essentially a seek-and-destroy technology where it will only attach to the organisms of interest. By using a selective approach we can preserve existing microbiomes, which makes them more resistance to opportunistic pathogens."

Wendell said current methodologies for treating outbreaks involve increasing chlorine concentrations at water treatment plants, but too much chlorine can produce other types of water contamination, commonly referred to as disinfection byproducts (which are regulated by the EPA) and certain bacteria -- Legionella for example -- are gaining resistance to Chlorine. .

Wendell received a $500,000 grant as part of an NSF CAREER Award earlier this year to develop a mass-production system for his protein-based photocatalyst.

"I think it is feasible to have a mass-production technology in less than five years," Wendell said.

His recent publication in the journal PLOS was titled "Selective Photocatalytic Disinfection by Coupling StrepMiniSog to the Antibody Catalyzed Water Oxidation Pathway" and was written in conjunction with former graduate student Elizabeth Wurtzler.

Beyond the potential use in water treatment, Wendell adds that the technology could also be used as a personal disinfectant product. And unlike antibacterial products (which kill all types of bacteria, including helpful types) his would target only harmful pathogens.

"The technology is also very useful for any sort of surface disinfection, including treating human skin," said Wendell.
-end-


University of Cincinnati

Related Bacteria Articles:

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.
Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.
Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.
Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.
Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.
Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?
Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.
Bacteria uses viral weapon against other bacteria
Bacterial cells use both a virus -- traditionally thought to be an enemy -- and a prehistoric viral protein to kill other bacteria that competes with it for food according to an international team of researchers who believe this has potential implications for future infectious disease treatment.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.